Film: Mangal Pandey – The Rising
Review by: Nithin Nadagouda
Cast: Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherji, Toby Stephens, Ameesha Patel, Some key players from the Lagaan Cricket team.
Director: Ketan Mehta
After 4 years of wait, the fans of Aamir Khan will "Rise" from the movie hall with mixed feelings. The feeling of elation as Aamir Khan etches the role of Mangal Pandey convincingly and the dejected feeling of having lost a magnanimous story compromising for the commercial aspects.
This is the story of the man who laid his life for the cause of the Indian Independence.
Ketan has succeded in portraying the dilemma of Mangal’s loyalty to the British Raj and loyalty to his religious faith. On one side he is trapped in the persona of a soldier and on the other hand, that of a Brahmin.
The story begins with the roots of the unusual friendship between the British Captain and the rustic soldier in the Afghan War. The captain has a pro Indian Stance which makes him defend a servant who fumbles a drink on a Gori Mem. Gordon’s superior officer (a batsman from Lagaan) who is seeing the young lady gets infuriated and manhandles the servant(calling him a Black Dog-Now how may times have we heard this!). Mangal Pandey intervenes to protect the servant there by setting the scene to unveil the rebel in him. The rebel thus roused moves onto to take up a fight with the superior officer for the cause of a prostitute (portrayed by Rani Mukherji).
Things turn sharply against the British when the cartridges, which are greased by the fat of cow and pig, introduced in the Enfield Rifles. However Capt William Gordon, not knowing the truth, convinces the Indian Soldiers that it has no such substance. Convinced by a friend’s word Mangal becomes the first person to use the greased cartridges, thus setting an example to his fellow soldiers.
Mean while the Captain’s Indian leanings get strengthened by the rescue of Jwala, a widow, (Amisha Patel) from Sati. The Captain also exposes the illegal Opium trade of the East India Company inviting an enquiry from the headquarters. The Enquiry pounces upon a certain trader named Sorabjee, who is nothing but a puppet in the hands of the Resident Officer.
Piqued,the trader reveals the truth behind the greased cartridges to Mangal and his fellow soldiers. Infuriated, Mangal severs his ties with the captain for making him an untouchable. The whole regiment disobeys their commissioner’s orders of using the Enfield Rifles and Mangal bravely stands up to a cannon. The commissioner backtracks upon which the soldiers get carried away and ransack the Arms. The Company calls upon the English troops in the Rangoon Regiment. The Sepoys Unify under the Ageing Mughal emperor along with Tatya Tope of the peshwas to prepare for a mutiny.The British get wind of this and expedite the arrival of the Rangoon Regiment. Mangal pandey pins his hope on the arrival of another Rebel regiment which is quashed by the British again.
When the Rangoon Regiment arrives Mangal Pandey has no other choice than to start the revolt which could have otherwise died a silent death. He chose to face death rather than show his back to the British. The Commanding officer has Mangal surrounded by his troops but orders not to make a martyr of a soldier. Mangal manages to get some soldiers killed but finally decides to die in his own hands rather than that of the English. However he survives and gets court martialled. Capt Gordon tries to get him acquitted but in vain. Mangal convinces Gordon that the rebellion is not just a matter of religion but a matter of self pride. Aamir shines in this conversation with Toby. It reminds of the scenes from his earlier films like the clash with inspector Salim in Sarfarosh, talk with his dad on phone in DCH. That scene is definitely the highlight of the film.
The rebel gets martyred in front of his countrymen ushering in the first war of Indian independence.
The screenplay and the editing department could have been a lot more tighter.
The story also shows glaring gaps in the development of character of Amisha Patel and the romantic developments between Aamir and Rani. Cinematic license did allow them to have a symbolic marriage in the cell. (thank God they did not break into a song!)
The songs were however a letdown barring Mangal Mangal and Main Vari Vari. The film did lack a solid background score.
Rani turns in a good performance though. Her introductory scene surely gives her fans a heartbreak where she looks like a proper prostitute.
Kiron Kher making an appearance as the Khotewali competes with Rani for an ample amount of cleavage.(Anupam kher would wonder why he is no longer the Censor Chief)
Tom Alter after a long time plays a role of an Englishman in the sidelights.
Remember the surrogate milking mother in the beginning of the movie? She is Mona Ambegaonkar. Fair & lovely and some "soap model" of yester-years (some one in the audience screamed “Iske Itne Bure din aagaye kya”)
A batsman and a bowler from the movie Lagaan’s British team make a comeback along with Aamir. (Heck 4 years is a very long time)
The James Bond villain, Toby Stephens, is completely at home as a sympathizing British officer. His painstaking delivery of the Hindi adds to the authenticity of the character.
Amisha Patel just does not match up to him. (I recall that Aishwarya was supposed to do this role. That would have been much much better).
Hats Off to Aamir Khan for delivering another power-packed performance as Mangal Pandey. Aamir again plays true to character bringing out the simplicity of Mangal’s thinking, the rustic qualities and the rebellious nature.
All said and done I still can’t see where the thirty crore went into. Surely 40% of it would have gone into the stars compensation package. They could have well spent it on the war scenes which were briskly edited.
The movie is a must watch solely for the historic element and the comeback of Aamir Khan.